VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) are two popular terms in recent years. Most people think that VR and AR are the same thing, but by nature they represent different experiences.

What are the differences between VR and AR?

VR (Virtual Reality)

The defining characteristic of VR is immersion. In the VR experience, users are put into a completely virtual environment created by the computer, often unaware of the real world around them. For example VR glasses can make them feel like getting lost in the Sahara or walking with dinosaurs.

AR (Augmented Reality)

Current technology allows the integration of virtual objects into real space. Simply put, the real world and virtual information are combined, not separated in a virtual space like VR. Through the screen, devices make people feel like virtual objects are existing and appearing in the real world. While VR completely replaces the real world with a simulated world, AR allows us to add virtual details to the real world. For example, when the user looks at a car through their smart phone camera, the AR application can display information about the manufacturer, model, price, showroom, etc. The game Pokemon Go is a famous example of AR.

VR/AR – new forms of transmitting information in journalism

The New York Times may be the first publishing company to use VR in journalism by launching the NYT VR application with “The Displaced”. Through “immersive, 360-degree Video Experience” it tells the story of three refugee kids and won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix 2016. After the initial success, the New York Times has boosted the supply of VR experience for their subscribers by sending them more than 1.2 million Google Cardboard VR glasses. Users can download the application, put their smartphone into Google Cardboard, and begin to enjoy the experience. Other big publishing companies have also started using VR, such as Discovery with Discovery VR, Los Angeles Times with VR tour of Mars’ Gale Crater, or The Guardian with “6×9: A virtual experience of solitary confinement”.

Meanwhile, AR has created another striking change in the publishing industry. Applications like the NYT VR create a digital role-playing experience, whereas AR may interact with the non-digital. The Washington Post had released “Freddie Gray in Baltimore”, recounting by AR the chain of events that caused the death of Gray when police suppressed riots in the city. Thanks to the combination of 3D images, sounds, maps, and text based on documents of the court and witness testimony, viewers can understand the complexity of the case more easily by playing characters and joining virtual contexts. Users can download the application and scan an icon on both print and digital media with their phone camera to activate content. In another example, Disney has created a 3D coloring book application for children through AR, which lets kids see and paint on their coloring book characters in 3D instead of ordinary paper.

The future of VR/AR

Currently, VR/AR is at an early stage when it comes to applications in journalism. Most of the above examples only represent the testing phase for major publishers. However, with the value VR/AR brings, along with technologies like Photo 360 or 360 Videos, publishers can give their users outstanding content experiences, especially the kind of content would be very difficult to convey without immersion.

In addition, because rapid developments in technology are driving down the price of VR/AR devices (for both content producers and end-users), investors do not have to worry about cost. Whether VR/AR could be a major trend in the publishing industry remains in question but VR/AR has created interesting and attractive experiences for users, who themselves will decide the future relevance of VR/AR in journalism.

FPT has recognized that VR/AR will bring great innovation to the content industry, and started investing seriously into this direction.

About the Author:

Mr. Nguyen Loc Vu – CTO of FPT Online

Mr. Nguyen Loc Vu graduated in Information Technology at Can Tho University in 2001. He has made great contributions to the architecture of FPT Online through products such as FPT ID, Banbe SNS, VnExpress Platform, Editor Platform and E-Click. Currently he is also a member of FPT Technology Council.

(Published on the FPT Technology Magazine, FPT TechInsight No.1)

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